Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 12th Nov 2016 22:32 UTC
Android

A few days ago, Google filed its official response to the EU antritrust investigation into Android. The company details its main arguments on the Android Blog, and it's definitely worth a read. The blog post is remarkably open about one of Android's main shortcomings - fragmentation.

To manage this challenge, we work with hardware makers to establish a minimum level of compatibility among Android devices. Critically, we give phone makers wide latitude to build devices that go above that baseline, which is why you see such a varied universe of Android devices. That's the key: our voluntary compatibility agreements enable variety while giving developers confidence to create apps that run seamlessly across thousands of different phones and tablets. This balance stimulates competition between Android devices as well as between Android and Apple's iPhone.

Android's compatibility rules help minimize fragmentation and sustain a healthy ecosystem for developers. Ninety-four percent of respondents who answered questions on fragmentation in a Commission market survey said that it harms the Android platform. Developers worry about it, and our competitors with proprietary platforms (who don't face the same risk) regularly criticize us for it. The Commission's proposal risks making fragmentation worse, hurting the Android platform and mobile phone competition.

The whole post is worth a read. As I've said before - I'm glad the EU keeps these large companies on their toes, but the accusations regarding Android seem way off base to me. In the end, market regulation needs to benefit consumers, not harm them - and it's easy to see how fragmenting Android into incompatible Samsung, Sony, HTC, and Google Androids would definitely harm consumers and developers alike.

I think there's a lot more fodder to be found looking at the relationship between companies like Samsung and Apple on the one hand, and carriers on the other. On top of that, the EU could've invested a lot more effort into fostering alternative platforms, instead of letting Microsoft ruin Nokia and run it into the ground (speaking of places where there's fodder to be found).

Nobody wants the proverbial Android N.

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Comment by Licaon_Kter
by Licaon_Kter on Sat 12th Nov 2016 22:52 UTC
Licaon_Kter
Member since:
2010-03-19

When they mentioned fragmentation I though the EU was forcing them to update devices (software updates, security fixes at least, something, the things "that matter for the consumer"), but nooooo this is about some preinstalled apps? Oh FFS, just de/activate/uninstall them and be done.

Or better yet, sue Microsoft and Apple too then.

Edited 2016-11-12 22:54 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by Licaon_Kter
by judgen on Sat 12th Nov 2016 23:05 UTC in reply to "Comment by Licaon_Kter"
judgen Member since:
2006-07-12

It is just antother cash grab, and since it worked on Microsoft the EC is probably thinking that Google would pay up as well.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by Licaon_Kter
by kurkosdr on Sun 13th Nov 2016 16:00 UTC in reply to "Comment by Licaon_Kter"
kurkosdr Member since:
2011-04-11

When they mentioned fragmentation I though the EU was forcing them to update devices (software updates, security fixes at least, something, the things "that matter for the consumer"), but nooooo this is about some preinstalled apps?


Is a security vulnerability considered a "defect" that falls under manufacturer warranty terms? Unless we have a judge answer that question, the EU cannot "force" a thing. It is the fault of us, the knowledgeable customers, for not pushing ahead with a class action suit. Deal with it and stop waiting for saviours.

BTW, the fact we don't see widespread malware crises in the Android ecosystem shows how safe the web has become compared to a decade ago (save for sites that are piracy-related or deal with illegal stuff, and must always be viewed on a fully updated machine with ublock enabled). Basically, any Android user who runs anything below Lollipop is the equivalent of a 2006-era user browsing with unpatched IE6 and unpatched Windows XP.

I guess the standardisation of web ads around a few big ad agencies who filter malware ads, and also porn sites going commercial (with premium subscriptions and anything) and hence viewing malware as bad for their premium business, has helped a lot.

Edited 2016-11-13 16:05 UTC

Reply Score: 3

Simple demonstration would convince me
by jonsmirl on Sun 13th Nov 2016 01:58 UTC
jonsmirl
Member since:
2005-07-06

Buy a random Android phone
Remove GPS (Google Play Service)
that should cascade and remove all apps
and turn the phone into AOSP
Now install Amazon Fire services
now you have a phone with zero dollars going to Goog
Remove Amazon Fire services
back to AOSP
Install the Xiaomi services

Now you have really proven that there is no lock in to Google.

I am not sure if this can currently be achieved by a non-technical user, so I would be happy if the EU simply required this sequence to work for normal people.

Once Google can demonstrate that this sequence works, then some EU company needs to build a competing run-time. But that's a problem for the EU to solve, not Google. And Google should not be forced to fund it.

If they really want to get whiny ship EU phones with AOSP and on first boot provide a choice.

Reply Score: 3

balaknair Member since:
2013-11-02

Buy a random Android phone
Remove GPS (Google Play Service)
that should cascade and remove all apps
and turn the phone into AOSP
Now install Amazon Fire services
now you have a phone with zero dollars going to Goog
Remove Amazon Fire services
back to AOSP
Install the Xiaomi services

Now you have really proven that there is no lock in to Google.

I am not sure if this can currently be achieved by a non-technical user, so I would be happy if the EU simply required this sequence to work for normal people.

Once Google can demonstrate that this sequence works, then some EU company needs to build a competing run-time. But that's a problem for the EU to solve, not Google. And Google should not be forced to fund it.

If they really want to get whiny ship EU phones with AOSP and on first boot provide a choice.


It is indeed possible to build such a device. The really difficult part is going to be convincing people to buy such a phone given that it will be less secure and might not run most third party apps.
Because you would be completely beholden to the OEM to release firmware updates- both feature updates and security updates. And most OEMs don't have a particularly good track record here. Given the plethora of devices out there, how would you even begin to develop for Android with no common framework to code for? With the Play Services Google can keep that core framework updated to allow newer versions of apps to work even on older versions of Android.

Reply Score: 2

jonsmirl Member since:
2005-07-06

You would have to trust the phone vendor to keep core AOSP updated. But phone vendor might let Google do this for them. Each of the other environments would be updated by their various owners - Google, Xiaomi, Amazon.

Note that Amazon and Xiaomi have they own, separate app stores. Amazon/Xiaomi take the 30% cut from those stores, Google gets nothing. Apps in the Amazon/Xiaomi stores work correctly on their run-time. An EU developed competitive platform would also have its own app store.

I am not saying this phone would be useful, it is designed to make the EU competitiveness people happy. 99% of people will pick the Google Play Services choice.

Reply Score: 3

Missing the point entirely
by emphyrio on Sun 13th Nov 2016 10:53 UTC
emphyrio
Member since:
2007-09-11

Th post seems to missing the point entirely, which is that, in Europe, the so-called voluntary pre-installation of the google app ecosystem is not voluntary at all, because it forces companies to install the entire package, or nothing from the package at all (so, no play store without google maps, for example). Normally this is all fine and legal, however, since google's android ecosystem is a monopoly in Europe such linked sales are prohibited.

At the moment this may not be damaging the consumer (this is doubtful), but google's policies, by leveraging the app store monopoly, are illegally making it more difficult for competitors of google's apps to enter the market.

Edited 2016-11-13 10:58 UTC

Reply Score: 10

RE: Missing the point entirely
by balaknair on Sun 13th Nov 2016 14:30 UTC in reply to "Missing the point entirely"
balaknair Member since:
2013-11-02

Th post seems to missing the point entirely, which is that, in Europe, the so-called voluntary pre-installation of the google app ecosystem is not voluntary at all, because it forces companies to install the entire package, or nothing from the package at all (so, no play store without google maps, for example).


You can still release an Android device without Google's Play Services altogether, installing your own framework instead like Amazon, some Chinese handset makers, or Cyanogen Inc. None of the revenue from app store or search goes to Google there. Not really a monopoly there. And if you want Google Maps without the Play Store, buy the iPhone.

At the moment this may not be damaging the consumer (this is doubtful), but google's policies, by leveraging the app store monopoly, are illegally making it more difficult for competitors of google's apps to enter the market.


How difficult is it to install a competitor's services on Android? Even with the Play Store and Play Services installed. Whether it's a search widget, maps, browser, home screen launcher or media player. One of the things I like about Moto devices is that they have no bloatware preinstalled. But anytime I want to install something else, it's easy enough to do, and I can set it as the default app replacing whatever the device shipped with. And getting apps published on the Play store is nowhere near as difficult or arbitrary as doing so the Apple App Store. Many have long argued that Google needs to be stricter so as to keep low quality and/or malicious apps out of the Play Store.

What you are arguing is that Google should promote fragmentation even more and make things significantly less secure for users, so as to make it marginally easier for 'competitors of google's apps to enter the market'. That sounds like Eugene Kaspersky's argument against Windows Defender where he wants MS to delay releasing updates to Windows 10 to give even more time to third party AntiVirus developers to prepare their products. That's what the Insider Preview program is for. Delaying release of updates to consumers leaves them vulnerable for longer. Consumers are the ones Consumer Protection laws are supposed to benefit.

Edited 2016-11-13 14:34 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Missing the point entirely
by emphyrio on Sun 13th Nov 2016 15:51 UTC in reply to "RE: Missing the point entirely"
emphyrio Member since:
2007-09-11

No, I am arguing that google is illegally using its monopoly to discourage phone companies from installing alternative applications.

This has nothing to do with android fragmentation.

Reply Score: 2

nicubunu Member since:
2014-01-08

Which is not true since every single Android phone on the market, except Nexuses an Pixels, come pre-installed with some alternative applications.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Missing the point entirely
by jonsmirl on Sun 13th Nov 2016 15:06 UTC in reply to "Missing the point entirely"
jonsmirl Member since:
2005-07-06

I am not all all for forcing Google to break up Google Play Services. For the most part that is a tightly integrated set of services that is mainly implemented on their cloud servers, not the phone. Trying to replace pieces of it will result in compatibility chaos.

The EU can make their own version of Google Play Services and install in on top of AOSP. That environment can use any mapping service they choose. Note that Amazon and Xiaomi do not use Google maps.

If the EU forces Google to break up GPS, the entire Android system will collapse. Competitors would quickly clone the app store and advertisement system taking all of the revenue away from Google. If the revenue leaves, Google would drop support for all of the other non-revenue pieces. A model like that is just theft, not innovation. I am somewhat suspicious that this is Microsoft's goal -- they want the EU to make it possible for them to steal Google's ad business.

If you want to compete, do all of the hard work, don't ask the government to let you come in and cherry pick all of the revenue away form someone else's work.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Missing the point entirely
by chithanh on Sun 13th Nov 2016 15:39 UTC in reply to "Missing the point entirely"
chithanh Member since:
2006-06-18

Normally this is all fine and legal, however, since google's android ecosystem is a monopoly in Europe such linked sales are prohibited.

Android may be a monopoly in mobile operating systems, that is if you follow the EU's argument that Android and iOS are not competing with each other.

But the Play Store is definitely not a monopoly in mobile apps, as the Apple App Store is roughly as large by revenue and only somewhat smaller by download volume.

So even if Android were a monopoly, force-bundling the Play Store with Android devices (which Google does not do) would be illegal, but force-bundling Google Maps with the Play Store would still be legal.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Missing the point entirely
by emphyrio on Sun 13th Nov 2016 15:55 UTC in reply to "RE: Missing the point entirely"
emphyrio Member since:
2007-09-11

The play store is definitely a monopoly in the android space. Any non-apple smartphone without the play store installed is dead in the water in Europe.

Reply Score: 2

chithanh Member since:
2006-06-18

But does the "android space" constitute a market in EU terms? I think not, mobile apps are a market though and there the Google Play Store is only marginally bigger than the Apple App Store.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Ikshaar
by Ikshaar on Sun 13th Nov 2016 13:12 UTC
Ikshaar
Member since:
2005-07-14

the premise that Apple is not a competitor is throwing the entire EU argument by the window for me.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by Ikshaar
by shotsman on Sun 13th Nov 2016 19:06 UTC in reply to "Comment by Ikshaar"
shotsman Member since:
2005-07-22

Android has many times the Apple market share in Europe. Because they are a minority player in terms of volume they escape the investigation.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment by Ikshaar
by Adurbe on Mon 14th Nov 2016 15:37 UTC in reply to "Comment by Ikshaar"
Adurbe Member since:
2005-07-06

In this case its not Apple as they don't offer Android services.

This is about Google using its weight to discourage other App Stores on the "open platform" of Android.

Look at the UK Android market as an example;
https://www.carphonewarehouse.com/mobiles.html

Find me an Android device that ships with anything other than Google Store/Play services.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by Ikshaar
by chithanh on Mon 14th Nov 2016 18:00 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Ikshaar"
chithanh Member since:
2006-06-18

Google doesn't discourage other App stores.

In fact Google doesn't care at all whether you ship the Play Store along other App stores. Samsung did this for a while. Huawei does this (Hi-Space Store). And in countries like Russia there are successful local alternatives to the Play Store, which demonstrates that it is not Google who prevents this, but the quality of the alternative app stores which is not enough to compete with the Play Store in many regions.

Edited 2016-11-14 18:05 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by Ikshaar
by Adurbe on Tue 15th Nov 2016 10:13 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Ikshaar"
Adurbe Member since:
2005-07-06

The EU ruling is only looking at Europe.

The fact that others in other jurisdictions they don't have the problem with Google as a monopoly has been achieved by virtue of state backing of alternatives or direct hindering of Google.

The question actually revolves around if Google incentivise OEMs to use and maintain their monopoly or if it is the result of legitimate competition.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by MrHood
by MrHood on Mon 14th Nov 2016 16:11 UTC
MrHood
Member since:
2014-12-02

On top of that, the EU could've invested a lot more effort into fostering alternative platforms, instead of letting Microsoft ruin Nokia and run it into the ground (speaking of places where there's fodder to be found).


I can't follow you very well here.
Are you arguing that Microsoft sunk Nokia (well-known conspiracy myth) instead of accepting the fact that they had already shot themselves in the foot at the time of acquisition? (rested too much on their laurels, spent too much time and resources on their own OS without production-ready results...)

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by MrHood
by chithanh on Mon 14th Nov 2016 18:12 UTC in reply to "Comment by MrHood"
chithanh Member since:
2006-06-18

By the time of the acquisition it was already far too late to save Nokia's smartphone business. The acquisition's only purpose was to give Windows Phone another year before collapsing.

What sank Nokia was going Windows Phone exclusive in 2011, but that was something Nokia did voluntarily, Microsoft didn't force them.

Reply Score: 2

Choice? Please.
by ezraz on Mon 14th Nov 2016 16:26 UTC
ezraz
Member since:
2012-06-20

Your choice is to have your profile and all your habits, purchases, locations, and interactions tracked by Google.

Your choice to have your profile sliced, diced, grouped, normalized, and sold to every Google revenue source (advertiser) possible for the rest of time with no revenue sharing going to you.

Your choice to have your history continually sliced, diced, labeled, invaded, and shared with every advertiser possible for the rest of time with no revenue going to you.

I prefer to make the advertisers work a little harder to find and profit from me. Google is 'cool' and hate on Apple if you want, but I trust Apple with my private digital life far more than millions of google advertisers.

Android was an awesome idea and I'd probably have one by now if Google never bought it. iPhone is an expensive rig and I barely use it anymore.

The charade here about freedom while using Android is ridiculous.

Bad guys will occasionally get into Android and iOS. Patch and business as usual. But the "good guys" are who you really have to worry about with the Android ecosystem.

Anyone can advertise with google, so nearly anyone can pay enough to access you whether you care or not.

Your future is being determined in private meetings between Google sales and 3rd parties from around the globe. None of this has anything to do with user space.

Android user space is the biggest private data collection scheme ever shipped. Which is why google paid g i i i i i i i i i llions for it when they saw it available.

Google is the biggest pay-no-attention-to-the-advertising-advertisering agency in the world, with Facebook being the 2nd. Call them search engines or social media if you want, but the scale and pace that those two data mine our personal business FOR PROFIT is alarming to me.

I either want a piece of that cut (make it non-profit so the tech is maintained but the users are paid) or give me old-fashioned private companies like apple and microsoft that I can own stock in without selling user's souls to the wolves.

Edited 2016-11-14 16:38 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE: Choice? Please.
by chithanh on Mon 14th Nov 2016 18:41 UTC in reply to "Choice? Please."
chithanh Member since:
2006-06-18

Your choice to have your profile sliced, diced, grouped, normalized, and sold to every Google revenue source (advertiser) possible for the rest of time with no revenue sharing going to you.
Please show me the Google website where they sell their users' profile data.

I trust Apple with my private digital life far more than millions of google advertisers.

Neither Apple nor Google sell your data. But they both sell targeted advertising.

If you trust one company more than the other, I recommend reading what security expert Bruce Schneier has to say on the matter:
https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2015/02/everyone_wants_.html

Basically, if you want your private life to remain private, do not give any of your data to any company.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Choice? Please.
by ezraz on Tue 15th Nov 2016 14:03 UTC in reply to "RE: Choice? Please."
ezraz Member since:
2012-06-20

Google isn't going to show you how/where/when they sell your data and they won't share how much it's worth to them.

Call it what you want.... profile, habits, demographics, searches.... it's your online life, it's who you are and what you do, and they have it for their own exploitation until the end of time.

"Targeted advertising" will become much more than what we think of it as now. They are just collecting all the data for free now, while they still can, and over the next couple of years will start to roll out the 'customized content' to sell us even more crap.

I'd rather have one point of concern/failure with my personal data, and do business with a company that derives revenue from everything else besides my private likes, dislikes and habits.

You can read google's policies, apple, MS, whoever, and choose to opt in or opt out. You should also know that google doesn't exist without targeted ad revenue. Apple exists just fine (fully profitable) as long as they keep you buying and subscribing to their stuff.

It's simple to me -- companies have a purpose which is to make money. They usually only have a couple of ways to make good money. Some promise free and find a way to profit beyond your control. Others just expect you to pay as you go, and with that they don't have to hide the fact that they profit from your data, not your purchase.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Choice? Please.
by Thom_Holwerda on Tue 15th Nov 2016 15:01 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Choice? Please."
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Google isn't going to show you how/where/when they sell your data and they won't share how much it's worth to them.


Google doesn't sell data.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Choice? Please.
by chithanh on Wed 16th Nov 2016 09:21 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Choice? Please."
chithanh Member since:
2006-06-18

Google isn't going to show you how/where/when they sell your data and they won't share how much it's worth to them.

You say Google sells my data. So there must be a way to buy the data. Or do you say Google sells my data only to those who are already part of the conspiracy?

You can read google's policies, apple, MS, whoever, and choose to opt in or opt out. You should also know that google doesn't exist without targeted ad revenue. Apple exists just fine (fully profitable) as long as they keep you buying and subscribing to their stuff.


Actually, this makes me much more confident in that Google will protect my data. If people stop trusting their data to Google, then Google is left with nothing.

If people stop trusting their data to Apple or Microsoft, those companies will not bat an eye. Both Microsoft and Apple have had incidents of not protecting their users' data (Microsoft got caught reading Skype and Hotmail messages, while Apple had leaked cloud-saved files of celebrities).

Reply Score: 2